Catching Up With Cam Cole
February 21st, 2011
Over the last few years, fast New Zealanders have become a regular fixture at the top of international downhill competition. A country consisting of two small islands in the South Pacific with a population of less than four and half million people currently have five riders in the top 25 and are sitting as the second most dominant nation in Elite men’s downhill racing.
At just 22 Cam Cole was the first of his generation to strike a blow that would open the doors to a Kiwi invasion of the world cups. Back in 2006 Cam took the junior world championship in Rotorua in front of a home crowd, an achievement every athlete dreams of. Things went pretty quiet for a couple of years, but towards the end of the 2009 season, Cam’s results began to show real form, but it was in early 2010 that he showed the field what he was truly capable of.
Unfortunately for Cam his 2010 season was cut short in Champery breaking his wrist and although he still managed to finish his run, it would inevitably put an abrupt end to his stellar year. Two podiums on two tough, demanding tracks made people sit up and look at yet another Kiwi with a point to prove to the world of mountain bike racing. For a successful junior rider, making the transition to Elite and maintaining their momentum can often be hit and miss and a dilemma that plays mind games on even the best riders. Cam made a lot of people look his way in 2010 and it wasn’t long until he caught the attention of Lapierre. The French bike manufacturer already have the services of Cam’s fellow country man and top world cup rider Sam Blenkinsopp and look set to have their best season to date with their “Kiwi super-team”. Cam Cole has the skills to pay the bills and eager to show both the fans and his new team that his results in 2010 were merely a taste of what is to come. Race season is almost upon us and Cam is already shredding the new factory Pendbox downhill bike and preparing for battle down the nastiest mountains the Northern Hemisphere has to offer. We caught up with Cam in early February as he prepares for 2011 season.
Interview: Olly Forster
Photography: James Allen
Cam Cole Interview
Lets go back to the worlds – 2006 in Rotorua. Many athletes never get a chance to represent their country, let alone do it in style with a win in front of a home crowd. What was going through your mind when you knew you had done it?
Not sure I couldn’t really believe it. I had been thinking about that race for about a year and a half before it and all I wanted to do was to win it. I was pretty focused the week of that event and I didn’t know what to do with myself for a while after that when I came off the high of race week.
Looking back, was winning the rainbow jersey a sign that a career as a professional bike rider was on the cards and surely a dream for all juniors to make it pro?
Yeah, Maxxis were pretty quick to sign me up. I was to race the US circuit for a year or two but the races there were fading away. All I wanted to do was world cups in Europe and that happened in 08 for the first time.
Mountain biking in New Zealand seems like a big deal from the outside looking in, especially for a country with a relatively small population. What do you think sparked the sports popularity and what or who got you into riding and racing?
New Zealand is a country with a lot of space to pursue outdoor and sporting activities. I am not sure mountain biking is a big deal here but there are some awesome tracks around and the people that race here are super passionate about what they do. I grew up racing BMX from around 3-4 and had a mountain bike from the age of 11. My first competitive mountain bike race was the NZ secondary schools competition they have every year. I grew up racing with Wyn, Blinky and a few other fast guys at the time through high school. In 2003 I did my first two DH national races.
After a busy race season most of the top guys take the off season to get away from their mountain bikes, but for you guys in the Southern Hemisphere, returning home to summer and a domestic race season in full swing. Do you compete back home or is the off-season a period to take time away from competition and focus on world cups?
It’s cool to do a few races. We are all mates at the events so it’s like a big get together of friends and the scene is pretty low-key. We get to see how our training is going, get a bit of time on the bike and try things out before taking them over to the bigger races. I miss a few of the races to avoid the travel but if there’s a good track I’m there.
2010 must have been a funny one for you, on one hand, excuse the pun, you stomped the podium twice and then on the other, a crash in Champery and bang, it was all over. How did you feel knowing your 2010 campaign was over, just as it was going so well?
Well for me it was a relief I had got the podiums and that I was going to be able to race again; also in a sense I realised my capabilities. My contract was up at the end of 2010 so I was unsure if I was going to have any support so to hit the podium twice meant I would be able to pull in some good support again. Yes, on the other hand I had some more stuff to prove and I was really looking forward to the worlds at Mount Saint Anne. There is 2011 and 12 now and I know where my potential is going and where my racing can go so I am looking forward to the next couple of years with Lapierre.
Has it been a big change for you moving teams; you had some good results on the RM with Maxxis last year and things looked to be working for you. Were you looking for a fresh start and how are you finding the new bike?
It was good with RM and Maxxis. I had started to develop the new bike with them and I was starting to work well. I was working out how to get the results with the team. I had 4 years with them and I had learned a lot as an international rider and a pro. It was just timing I think and the right people wanted me on their team with a good deal, a dedicated downhill programme and I think the best support around the world cup scene. The bike is awesome, its so light, works well on the bumps and I think it’s a good all round package.
You and Sam are both capable of podiums, are a similar age and fellow countrymen. This could rock the boat within some teams and has done in the past. You must have a good professional relationship with Sam and have you guys been training together or is there some competitive rivalry between you?
I’m looking forward to getting up on the podium with him and maybe a 1-2 would be sick. Like I said we have raced together for a little while now so we know each other pretty well. We have both pushed each other since we were 16 at races so I think that’s why we have been fast and continued to develop. To be honest I’m stoked when he does well cause he’s a kiwi we are all pumped when a kiwi does well.
Lapierre have put a pretty solid package together and the new bikes and race kit is pretty factory to say the least. I bet you’re pretty excited to get racing especially being healthy after last year’s injury?
Yeah for sure, we have just got the national champs left next weekend then I’ll be having a small break before heading back into the training when the World cups start. I feel pretty good right now but still got some things I need to work on before the end of April rolls around.
Looking ahead, April is getting increasingly nearer and the races are going to be interesting this year to say the least, what are your goals for 2011?
I just want to do what I did last year. Hit top 10s and podiums, stay consistent and healthy. I have a new bike and a new team so that will take a bit to get used to no doubt, but I think I can go well at the first two rounds as I have before. It’s a long year so maybe I can have a shot at the title chase at the end of it all.
New Zealand is about as far away as you can get from where the races are, how hard do you find being that far from home and being away from family and friends?
It is hard, but we try to get home a bit and get girlfriends and family over to some of the races. It’s good that there are so many Kiwis on the circuit and we are all mates, so that helps to see some familiar faces at events.
Away from bikes how do you like to spend your time?
We have some cool beaches in NZ for swimming and surfing in the summer. We can catch a bit of snow at the end of the winter too, which is cool. I ride dirt bikes for the southern hemisphere spring. Random things sometimes like golf, tennis, etc are all good too. My girlfriend Amy and I have a house, so sometimes work on that too.
Thanks Cam and all the best with 2011 from everyone at Factory Jackson. Time for those interview shout outs!
Big thanks to Lapierre for all the work so far in getting me sorted with bikes and things to test out, among all the other crap. Also, a massive thanks to Fox Racing Shox, those guys do so much hard work and it helps us go faster. Also to my parents, Amy and my flat mates at 107. Oh and New Zealand is sick, come race here in our summer!!!
Massive thanks from everyone at Factory Jackson to James Allen for helping with the photos of Cam racing his new Lapierre.
You can see more of James’s work on his Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=695927150